Sunday, May 30, 2010

For what I have done & what I have failed to do...

Achievements: kitchen: red kidney beans soaked and cooked. Hummous made. Beef stock made. Chicken stock made.

Nursing: Favourite Handyman and Brighid are better now.

Childcare: Brighid starts going to Sharon's for Monday and Friday mornings from tomorrow. Both the children are enchanted with her (we've had several visits) and I am delighted to have found someone who fits with our family's needs and outlook, in addition to our beloved Robyn, who Brighid will still spend Tuesday and Thursday mornings with.

Rest: pushing away the lurgy which snaps at my ankles and my throat, reading Marsha Mehran's Pomegranate Soup and Rosewater and Soda Bread. Nice escapism.

Not yet achieved: sewing. I put the denim needle in and did a test run on some heavy denim which went fine. But I am still trying without any success to hem Brighid's red corduroy trousers, the ones which my Mum made for Fionn and I have tacked flowery braid around the bottom to freshen them up and hide the bare scuffed hem. I presume there is a tension problem and I have tried to fix it but my knowledge is too limited.

Gardening: I missed the pre-full moon period for optimal seed sowing and planting. I weeded a little this afternoon.

Still thinking: about the article on Transition Towns, focusing on Oamaru, in the weekend paper. Also about the suggestion by the anarchists on May Day that the Transition Towns movement (and farmers markets) are easily co-opted by capitalism. Still thinking about the world shaped (run) by debt and the environmentally unsustainable model of the economics of debt which requires constant growth to pay the interest on the borrowing.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Osso bucco

Such a flash term. Italian I believe. I branched out into cooking shin beef with this recipe today. The attraction of cooking with sawn across rounds of shin beef (upper part of a cattle beast's leg) was that the bone marrow which becomes available as it cooks is so nutritious. Turns out it is tasty too.

I adapted from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's instructions in his book Meat.
Brown six rounds of shin beef in olive oil. Put into casserole dish. Then in same oil, sautee 2 chopped carrots, 3 chopped cloves of garlic, a chopped celery stick, 2 chopped onions and some chopped mushrooms. Then add a tin of chopped tomatoes and a big slug of red wine (I love the total decadence of cooking with wine. A shame that the budget doesn't allow for doing it nearly as often as I would prefer) and bubble for a few minutes. Tip all that into the casserole dish with some fresh herbs (bay leaves,thyme and oregano) and put in the oven for two hours on 140 celsius. Six rounds would actually feed a lot of people - six for a sumptuous meal and lots more if you chop it up before you serve. We have leftovers which I shall snaffle tomorrow.

It tasted wonderful. Next time I will do it in the slow cooker (same starting drill though) and I think the gentler cooking will render the meat more tender. Even the girl who is finally not sick ate it.

I have also made beef stock with bones I bought at the same time as the shin beef (from Jonesy the butcher of course). If I can be organised enough to soak and cook some kidney beans tomorrow, we could be slurping minestrone on Sunday. Another flash Italian word, minestrone.

Fionn who is seven wants to have butter chicken curry tomorrow night. Which is useful as I bought some chickens tonight (dead and plastic wrapped from the supermarket) and tomorrow is Dad and son cooking night. So they can find a recipe and do it themselves.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

In which I find the holocaust and taxes linked

The rich need to pay less tax in this country, according to John Key. That will help the rest of us. This is not because trickle down theory worked in the 1990s but because it didn't and that is how John Key and his cronies like it.

I have been thinking about why I am happy to pay tax and why the government thinks we should pay tax. To me, it is about some redistribution of resources in an unequal capitalist economy. Many persons who pay the higher tax rate (perhaps all, but I am unable to defend that categorically) earn that extra money through the exploitation of lower paid workers (or unpaid workers). Diane Foreman came to my attention in last Sunday's paper. The link isn't the Sunday Star Times one which credited her first streak of apparently wonderful entrepreneurial skills with the babysitting register she set up whilst a teenager on the North Shore. She lined up the parents and babysitters and took 20% of the wages of her peers who did the babysitting. This is entrepreneurial? I think it is close to stealing. So absolutely she should pay more tax than her workers. She is profiting inordinately from their labour.

No political party any where near power in New Zealand is going to explain taxes in those terms.

We can of course talk about collective resources for the smooth functioning of our society - roads, hospitals, airports, libraries and schools to name but a few. Taxes pay for these and in our modern world with a high level of government work, these create significant amounts of wealth for people who are not providing labour for a saleable product. Witness the growth of that alongside the transformation of the New Zealand Labour Party from a party of workers to a party of chardonnay sipping bureacrats who like the idea of an equitable society so long as they retain certain personal luxuries beyond what most people can afford.

Back to rich people and their supposed benefits for our society. As far as I can ascertain from John Key's speeches, the benefits of rich persons having more disposable cash far outweigh the benefits of cleaners, supermarket workers, road workers, child carers and bar workers being able to both feed their families and heat their houses in winter.

Are rich people more deserving because they were perhaps cleverer, had a streak of something superior in their ability to get other people to part with their cash? Tax cuts for the top earning bracket seems to suggest exactly that.

So would white people be more superior then? Certainly in the US (as one example), white people are richer and the gap with black people has widened markedly in recent years. Is this because white people are innately cleverer and should be rewarded? To my mind this is repugnant, but what is behind the choices in the changes to the Texan curriculum?

This afternoon I was at a birthday party for our three year old friend E, who is also known as spiderman and ran around in delight in his new spiderman outfit. When the top part is on, you can only see his eyes. I observed that he could be arrested if he was out in the streets in his favourite garb in some parts of Europe. The ban on full face coverage, nothing to do with spiderman and everything to do with demonising Islam, seems to me to be the beginnings of something terrible, something which could yet see us looking at the unthinkable after the fact and wondering how it possibly could have happened. Not that it hasn't happened since, it certainly did in Rwanda. Watch the movie Hotel Rwanda if you haven't already. Not much noise about that internationally and colour has so much to play in that international disinterest.

I can stake no solid claim on coherency or sophistication in my thoughts, but hopefully it is a useful signpost on my journey to be clearer about how injustice and inequalities are either challenged or reinforced in legislation, policy and public discourse. When I was a university history student, I spent a lot of time reading about notions of respectability in Victorian England/New Zealand/Ireland/Australia and about the deserving and undeserving poor. Little has changed.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

nursing. tax & 'deserving'

so much fun. Well bits of it are. My kind of nursing involves loads of garlic and potions and lotions and sleep and vitamin c.

loads and loads of vitamin c. Finding sneaky ways to get it in the small kids.

But now Favourite Handyman is crook, as is usual for this time of year. He gets crooker than the kids (they don't smoke tobacco) but also he is more open to trying funny tasting things to help.

Tonight I stumbled upon the idea of an onion poultice to burn out a lung infection. He has been saved from that for the moment because I wasn't satisfied I knew enough about it after my googling and also because I would have to sleep with onions as well if I put it on him. And they might fall out of the poultice wrap and land on me.

Who needs slimey cold onions all through the bedding?

So for the moment, it is winter flu remedy (somewhere in my archives is the recipe - acv, cayenne, garlic, honey), more vitamin c, carrot, ginger, celery, apple juices made with the flash new juicer I bought last time we had bad health, and lemon drinks.

I'm using my whizzy stick to make vege potions to strengthen us all. Tonight's pasta sauce was anchovies, onions, garlic, silverbeet, red pepper and yellow pepper sauteed in olive oil and then whizzed up so you can't tell which bits are which.

I'm also playing round with Sally Fallon again, a recurring minor obsession. Even though I find parts of her book ridiculous and flakey, something also draws me back to it again and again. Banana bread is finishing in the oven as I type. I started soaking the flour in kefir last night. This mixture was much easier to work with than the attempt at making soaked scones (or muffins maybe) last year.

Stock time. I came home from the butcher's today with my usual bag of beef bones and also some shin on the bone, which I've never cooked before and which looks like high goodness food to me. There is a flash sounding recipe for it available called osso bucco which I want to try in the slow cooker.

Taxation. Civilised society. The deserving. I've been thinking about tax for a while, particularly since a friend emailed me and asked why I was in favour of higher taxation for higher income earners and also since I read a Guardian article about education in Texas, where they are rewriting history and specifically teaching that economic prosperity requires minimal government intrusion and taxes. If you have a close look at the new(ish) New Zealand curriculum, you will find instructions for unthinking free market adherence in there as well.

This quote got me thinking, and reeling:

The education board has dropped references to the slave trade in favour of
calling it the more innocuous "Atlantic triangular trade", and recasts the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict as driven by Islamic fundamentalism.

What this brings me back to are notions about deservingness. I think that presumptions about 'deserving' underpin social and economic policy in both large and small forms. I don't have a theoretical background in any of this, but we all pay taxes and since Rachael's question, I've been thinking also about how we all need to think about and know why we support the tax system we either vote for, or want in our heads and dreams.

I will try and come back to this soon.

Monday, May 24, 2010

jinxed housewife

I begin my glorious day of stay at home nurse, mother, cleaner, washer, helper, entertainer and mostly stroppy person by trying to take my sick daughter to the doctor. We are on day six after all.

Has there been an earthquake? A tsunami? A tragedy beyond the skill of the local medics to overcome? No no no. The medical centre computer system is down. So although I am there, with my sick daughter on a cold wet day and although all the doctors and nurses are there, I cannot even have a nurse's assessment (routine for emergency appointments here) while the computer is down. We eventually leave, unimpressed, with a note for the nurse to ring me when the computer is working.

She never rings. Thank goodness today is Brighid's turnaround day and she is now clearly on the mend. Not sure what will happen to medical care here in Wetville when a big earthquake does happen. I don't expect computer systems to survive a big rumble and surely, neither does any other thoughtful person think that?

Back home, I wonder what else I can do. I work pretty hard to supply good food to my family and complementary therapy to enhance their systems, conventional medicine when necessary, clean clothes, fresh water, enough sleep. The only thing I can think of is to have a cleaner house. So I start cleaning the kitchen, wiping down cupboards and clearing cluttered surfaces. Part way through I remember Hilary Butler (author of exceptionally useful books on vaccination and nutrition and the website 'beyond vaccination') mentioning that so often mothers find themselves back at square one six weeks after using antibiotics on their sick children.

Oh. Not six weeks here but nine weeks. Hmmm. Well hopefully we will get through this one without abs and keep on improving her immune system.

Notwithstanding this revelation, I continue cleaning. A bit more clean, some more deep clean not surface stuff, it must help.

Yeah, this is Sandra. It's ME, cleaning cupboard doors and wiping in difficult corners. I did this in the laundry/toilet last week and now I'm in the kitchen.

I'm CLEANING like a good person.

So what happens?

Not content with cleaning for my beloved family, I attempt to make nutritious and yummy after school food for when Fionn, now a big strapping and not sick boy who can walk home alone, turns up, ravenous for food and love from his newly competent mother.

I put spuds in to bake in preparation for making dinosaur eggs. I don't know that these spuds are not like any other spuds. These are organic red king spuds and they behave a little differently. Part way through, as I waltz past the kitchen carrying loads of washing to fold (this is ordinary, whereas cleaning cupboards most certainly is not), I smell burning.

Burning? Nothing left on inappropriately.


Oh dear. Of the five spuds I put in the oven, three have exploded. All through my oven which was cleaned not that long ago, maybe even only last month.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

chicken soup and hospital politics

Chicken soup made from an entire chicken always seemed way too extravagant to me, like lamb done with anchovies. Now I've broken the lamb and anchovies barrier and the whole chicken soup barrier. I think both of them have been for health food reasons. The extra omega 3 boost of anchovies and the awareness of how nutritious chicken stock is.

I bought a fresh chicken from the supermarket. Bog standard cheap chicken - that's the only kind our small town supermarket sells fresh (and even frozen there is free range but not organic). Cut it up roughly and put it in my large stock put with water, apple cider vinegar, chopped celery, carrots, onions and ginger. Boiled it for an hour, lifting the scum off periodically.

Then I lifted out the chicken pieces, cut up the meat and put it in a smaller pot and put the bones into the slow cooker. Then I added enough stock liquid to the small pot for lunch, some fresh chopped carrot and broccoflower in and boiled it a bit more, then added some noodles and then that was lunch for the whanau. Went down well with a bit of black pepper and some tamari soy sauce.

The remaining liquid and veges I put into the slow cooker and topped it up with fresh water and it is still on low now and will go overnight.

I could have stretched the meat further. I made a meaty soup but I could have kept half the meat for a chicken pie. So there are still the proverbial three meals to be had of the chicken doing it this way round.

My other food project today is turning lemon peel into vitamin c powder. The dehydrator is on now. I forgot about the sourdough starter being on the bench and it bubbled and collapsed which means it has run out of energy for the moment so instead of leaving a new dough to rise overnight, I gave the starter more food and I'll have another go in the morning. Sometimes it gets wheat and sometimes rye but it always seems quite resilient and adaptable. The rye adds so much flavour.

I read Knitting by Anne Bartlett today. From the library. I quite liked it. Feministy intellectual world meets craft knitting and grief. Sharon I wonder if you have read it? I'd be interested to know what you think. And anyone else of course.

The lovely Jackie at our local Bernina shop explained to me this morning how not to break needles all the time merely by hemming trousers. Now I have some denim needles for my sewing machine.

Brighid is quite sick. She has stopped vomiting and diarrhoea and the cough is less scary than it was, but she sleeps much of the day. Other people have reported similar symptoms in their local children and it looks like once again she has copped two circulating illnesses at once. But today there were two of us adults and that made much much better.

I weeded the sheeps sorrel out of the punga raised bed and added blood & bone and dolomite lime this afternoon. I found my punnet of purple sprouting broccoli looking a little sad so it is soaking in water now and in the morning, they can have new homes in the big garden. I weeded some more in the old chook run (mostly borage seedlings and what might be cornsalad gone mad and of course oxalis). My bay trees have an affliction. Maybe it is a kind of rust? Not sure what to do about that.

The date has come out for a meeting about agitating to save our local health services, a meeting to follow up discussion at the May Day forum in Blackball. What did people do when there was a meeting about equal access to jobs and health care in 1930s Germany? Was Jesus too busy when people were dispossessed? These are things going through my mind right now. I don't know whether I cannot manage to attend (with the ongoing commitment they will want, need, look for) or whether morally I just cannot not go.

Friday, May 21, 2010

stolen moments

Yesterday morning was vomit and then the afternoon and evening was diarrhoea and the whole health parade culminated in a nasty, deep cough with a distinctive 'whoop'. Today I had both children home (teacher only day at Fionn's school), the quarantine continued and I went insane. Not irreparably, but I think some scars take longer to heal than others.

Just for the record, just for the tiny, pathetic houseworking neverending record, I washed and hung out and brought in three loads of washing today. I wiped noses and lit and tended a fire all day long. I made more snacks than I have fingers and toes to count on and often cleared and wiped the kitchen bench just in time for it to be filled again. I refereed inter-sibling arguments about what number piece of fruit each child was on. There will be no prizes for my reffing. I don't think I actually screamed on the eighth round, but I was close.

They are still awake now. I type to the sound of "Muuuuum", "mummy" and "Mum, come here." And coughing.

I love my children and I do NOT love quarantine.

I have had a quick look at the budget announcements. No surprises and nothing to be proud of as a country. What's with borrowing money to fund tax cuts? Can anyone explain that to me convincingly?

Yesterday I bought and downloaded an e-book called Live Lice Free. Tomorrow I need to buy a few more oils, a shower cap and a sweat band. I can't find any on Fionn, but he is itching and scratching and I am sure I have them (the live and moving head sensation) so tomorrow is lotion and potion experimentation day.

I saw the sunshine today. I liked the hanging out the washing bit best. But as my children want to run around practically naked and one is coughing dangerously, it was inside for me the rest of the time. I pulled out three weeds though. Stealth gardening in stolen moments.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The challenges of being professional

Robyn is in Wellington. Her daughter has left home. We have asked about a squillion favours of our friends in the last ten days and surely the meeting won't last long, nor will the chiropractor's appointment.

So the girl comes with me to my work meeting and the boy goes to work with his dad after school and then with him to the chiropractor's. During the early afternoon the girl seems not entirely herself but nothing to start calling the medics in for. Wednesday is supposed to be my day of not doing paid work but this year there seem to be a number of vital meetings on a Wednesday. I balance not turning up due to no childcare vs turning up with a three year old who needs the toilet at very very short notice and I decide that turning up is the better idea.

Except that she turns out not to be entirely well. At one point, I ask her if she thinks she will be sick. Yes. Ever the multi-tasker, I get up (carrying her at the same time) and pull the large black plastic rubbish bin right up beside me. I soothe her brow and listen to the meeting. I even manage to say some relevant things when asked. I say much less than usual, but there are points in favour of such an approach. Then she wees on me. I leap up (carrying her at the same time) to reduce the damage to the carpet (too late). Everyone else assumes she is about to vomit and encourages me to go home. I have completed the essential part of the meeting.

It is difficult to look professional when someone is weeing on your lap.

In other child things developments, I did not get to meet Sharon who may be a wodnerful childminder today because her seven year old daughter is home with a vomiting bug. Neither of Sharon's two children, aged 5 & 7, have ever vomited before. I nearly gag at the amazingness of this myself. When no one has sick kids and we finally get to meet in persons, I am rather desperate to know what she feeds her children. I bet her house is really clean.

Clean house? I tried that the other day. It was several days before C was due to work miracles on our dusty abode and I thought I would get a little mature and sweep the wooden hall floors myself. Responsible use of my precious time at home, you could say. So I swept the hall floors and even washed one of the walls which had yucky things on it, the origins of which I didn't pause once to speculate on. Not long later, Brighid had an accident. An accident is a euphemism for a bacterial explosion of the kind which keeps Fisher & Paykel in business. I cleaned up what I could see and noticed later on that some unfortunate and inconsiderate person had walked mud into the hallway. Me, most likely.

Except not.

Not mud. Cue more spot cleaning and then the entire nuclear unit despatched and detained in the lounge while I washed the hall floor with hot water and janola. No, I cannot remember what ethically appropriate product would have been kinder to the environment than janola. Poo in the hallway is not kind to anyone's environment.

At least the hall looks quite nice now.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

fish n chips n childcare

Fish and chips for dinner. Takeaways. The bliss of it.

Last night I cooked pumpkin bake and one child hid under the table so as not to even have to look at it and the other made noises similar to those probably made by men and women dying of torture in the Reformation. At the prospect of eating perfectly nice food.

So I'll be taking a break from food reporting for the foreseeable future of my breathing existence.

Mostly at the moment I am spending my waking, dreaming and the bits in between when I want to be asleep but am not, thinking about childcare. Our precious K has moved out of her parents' home, taking her boyfriend and baby daughter with her. It isn't to the original flat they had planned and we have decided that Brighid cannot go to K's new home. I've been close to tears a few times this week but also grateful for the wonderful care we have had for Brighid over the last 2.5 years. K's mum will still look after Brighid two mornings a week and I've been researching options for the other two mornings which I work.

Breakthrough this morning when I had a chat to our wonderful kindy teacher, I had not thought to talk to her right at the beginning. She knows all sorts of wonderful things and also she knows about things which aren't wonderful and need to be avoided. A and I have known each other since the first month we lived on the West Coast, when our husbands began working together. She made me the most beautiful pink booties when Brighid was born.

And she has recommended a lovely childminder to me today and Brighid and I have an appointment to meet S and check out her house of toys tomorrow morning.

A post about children. Sometimes it has to happen. We did get a great big box of organic feijoas this morning, couriered from Golden Bay. They are making us all happy. I did pull five weeds out of the garden this afternoon.

And I do have the details through for a writing workshop with Joan Rosier Jones to be held in Blackball in June. Which is both exciting and a reminder that I am supposed to be organising part of it, including a mailout tonight.

I am missing alcohol. Not on a diet or planned abstinence, just waiting until pay day so we can afford some. Which is tomorrow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Blackball Museum of Working Class History open day

Today was fabulous. Quite a few people came out to Blackball and spent time reading the history boards, looking at the exhibits and watching a film. It is no longer a pie in the sky dream project but a resource for everybody to learn about and celebrate the stories and struggles of working people.
I did take my camera and I have run out of battery juice and I have lost my battery charger so no photos of today. What I do now have though, are some fabulous, fabulous photos of the May Day opening (two weeks ago). Thank you Jo Edgar, you are a wonderful photographer.

The march from the Community Centre to the Memorial building. I love the backdrop of rain cloud and blue sunshine and a little mist, all together. That's what it often looks like in Blackball.The woman holding her baby is the very skilled worker of the cross stitch banner. I apologise for not remembering her name, but she is one of the Christchurch Anarchists.
Jose Garcia, the Cuban Ambassador, speaking at the opening ceremony. I enjoyed his speech and learnt that Cuba provides a lot of doctors to small Pacific Island countries.

People looking at the billboards. These are open to the public 24 hours and 7 days a week.
Today I watched a film on the Kinleigh Strike in 1977, when forestry workers in the middle North Island formed their own separate union in response to being sold out by their union leader. I knew nothing about it previously, and enjoyed it greatly. It appeared to be original footage, made as events actually happened.
Then I got home and found some meat thawing in the sink. Favourite Handyman had thought about dinner in advance. So I had home made dinner, at our home, cooked for me for the second night running. Everybody ate it. Wiener schnitzel, pasta, green salad and carrots.
Perfect weekend.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

kohlrabi and yum yum mash

Today was bliss. I gardened, we all stayed home together all day, bar a couple of small trips to the shops for a new tarpaulin and for milk, coffee and more fruit supplies.

I freed one of my roses in the rose nursery from the creeping buttercup (or is it spreading buttercup? either way, it lives up to its name). The three surviving roses in the rose nursery (one section of the garden against the back brick wall) are all from cuttings I took from our clever rose growing neighbours last winter. This winter I will shift them into a more permanant spot, but to do so, I have to get rid of the weeds to get access.

I planted out the six kohlrabi seedlings beside the rose nursery.

I cleared away weeds, punga ferns and the outer leaves going yucky from the silverbeet in the punga raised bed. I have some more to do there before there is room for more vegetables. I think some rocket seeds are worth a go. I cannot imagine having too much rocket.

Tonight I saw this post on drying comfrey and although I'm not using their idea, inspired by them I now know how I will dry mine. The strings are still up in the tool shed from the tobacco growing experiment a couple of seasons ago. I shall peg the long comfrey leaves to the tobacco line. I used to make liquid fertiliser with comfrey until I eventually came to the conclusion that in a high rainfall area such as ours, liquid fertiliser is not amazingly helpful. Hence this year wanting to change what I do. The mild autumn is the only reason it hasn't died back already but tomorrow I shall do a big harvest.

Tomorrow is also the open day for the Blackball Museum of Working Class History 08 Memorial. I will be there 11am-2pm, smiling at people, chatting if they want to, and in between setting up a library system and writing up our charities commission number on receipts. The receipts are just for donations - the actual open day is completely free. At lunchtime there will be soup (a fundraiser for the local Playcentre) and the West Coast Wobblies choir will perform.

Dinner tonight was cooked by Favourite Handyman and Fionn and tasted superb. Hungarian sausages from the Blackball Salami Company, mashed potato, sliced raw carrots, and a lettuce and rocket salad from our own garden. The mashed potato was much better than last time I made it and I think the secret most likely is more butter than you would ever want to work out the financial cost of. Brighid asked for more 'yum yum', meaning the mashed potato. Oh glorious, happy Saturday.

I've got bread rising as I type and although the house is very messy, everyone is healthy and the children are fast asleep. The four of us here, we create our sense of love, home and belonging not in the state of our bedrooms and lounge, but in the garden and playing space outside and in the food from the kitchen. I used up the last of the basil making a pistou-like sauce (except we were out of parmesan so just lemon zest, garlic, basil and olive oil) and I think the pots can come down and I'll have a go at growing coriander on the windowsill in winter.

Friday, May 14, 2010

the shape changes from week to end

We did it. The end of the week is here. At lunchtime I collected Favourite Handyman from work and we did some family things which needed doing during regular working hours. Fionn had the rare treat of being collected by his Daddy and slowly we all wound down into homeness.

Dinner: polish sausages from Blackball, baked in the oven. Nice. I tried a new vegetable combo and sauteed sliced carrots and ginger in lots of butter until they were soft enough to pulverise with my whizzy stick. After a bit of cooking, I decided to add some silverbeet and anchovies. So omega 3 from the anchovies and the butter providing the fat and vitamin a for the fat soluble vitamins in the carrots and silverbeet. It whizzed up to a very nice soft mash. I had cooked pasta because I thought the girl would eat it (wrong) and the texture effect of the mash spread through the pasta was rather baby food like. again.

But the anchovies definitely lifted the taste out of babyfood land and I am going to make that again, only not put it with macaroni. I think if I was a restaurant chef I would call it mash and have it with fancy whole vegetables alongside chops. I know chops aren't restaurant fare, but fancy mash is and chops seem the right taste match rather than the more expensive and voluptuous steak.

We looked at a perfectly nice child care centre which comes recommended by friends whose opinions on such things I respect. But it is still an institution. I'm hoping that it will turn out that our Kimberley who has moved out of her parents' home will find that it works for her to come back with her daughter to look after Brighid on Monday and Friday mornings. When Fionn was four and five (and three and two now I think about it), we seriously considered home schooling and leant towards an unstructured, free learning process, 'unschooling' it seemed to be called. We have the good fortune currently to be involved with fantastically run institutions in the form of Fionn's school and Brighid's kindy, but the general reservation about involving more institutions in our family life remains.

Garden finds. When I was rearranging the things which line the wall opposite the potting/chook food shed, I found the missing bag of snowdrop bulbs. May is rather late to plant them, but they will prosper eventually, if not this spring. Late last winter, we found snowdrops from a plant which must have been dormant and unloved for many years and finally we had returned the soil and surrounding garden to the conditions for it to thrive again.

The front door step. I pass by the almost shoulder high weeds in front of the miniature roses (also the strong and persistent survivors of many years of rental home neglect) and ignore the gunnera until I have a day to slash and bag (it is beginning to flower which is a noxious no no). What I see is the green of the bulbs now ten centimetres outside our bedroom window. I see the many parsley seedlings, sprung from last year's huge parsley plant which went to seed after one year instead of two. They are the seedlings of promise. Several have been transferred to the back garden with room to grow huge and there are plenty more to gift to friends. As winter pulls in and even the kitchen windowsill basil fades, parsley provides vitamin c, flavour and green flecks to my hummous. Usually I have too much and give long sprays to friends but last year the weather conditions conspired the other way and we missed it at least every week.

The weekend. A space with the promise of soem gardening time. Perhaps the kohlrabi and purple sprouting broccoli, which also await me on the front porch step, will be in the garden by next nightfall.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

pulling teeth

Dinner: milo (for the boy with a numb mouth), chicken, avocado and hummous sandwiches, tayberries, cheese, mandarins. It was great to be home and have something to eat.

I never really knew what a root canal was until today. Fionn was in agony last night and as soon as I got to work today (couldn't ring earlier as we had no power after last night's storm), I began to negotiate the school dental service system. Eventually we got him an appointment with a dentist in town for the afternoon and she advised a root canal over an extraction.

The things you learn in pubs. As I went into multitasking mother overdrive, I ran into our local pub to tell the publican who is also Fionn's rugby league team manager that he wouldn't be at practise and why, it turned out I knew the only two patrons as well and they had some strong, indeed vehement, advice on root canals (DON'T!!!!!!!!) and I realised I had 45 minutes to research this.

By the end of 45 minutes I had organised after kindy care for my daughter, gleaned some more insights into the whys and wherefores of root canals (thank you to our lovely kindy teachers, one of whom used to work as a dental nurse), checked Favourite Handyman's thoughts (extraction) and advised the dentist that they would be doing an extraction in ten minutes' time, not a root canal.

We've also got some challenges around changing child care circumstances and my lovely friends are helping me next week as we work through those changes and what the best response is for Brighid. I feel so very very blessed to have the wonderful supportive friends I have here. They love my children and my children love them. I know it is not something to take for granted.

And in my garden? I have tiny seedlings of miners lettuce popping up all through the herb garden. Apparently too hot for them over summer and now we have more greens in sight for winter. I didn't get to look at them today, but I know they are there, green shoots of a life not so busy.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Inequalities & interviews

Pumpkin soup. Very mediocre in my opinion. Not having great joy this season on sourcing rich yummy pumpkins. One vegetable where you cannot tell anything from the outside apart from if it is mouldy. We all ate some. Some of us under more duress than others. Not bad Fallon/Price food except for the shop bought toast we ate with it. Good marks on the cheap front.

This morning Brighid and I drove out to Blackball, populating Old Macdonald's farm with ducks, mice, pigs, horses, elephants, tigers and lions as we went. It is quite exciting to have our Blackball working class history project meetings in our resource room, onsite at the 08 memorial. This is no longer a pipe dream. The shrine to the toil and struggle of working people is here and cannot easily be taken away.

We talked about future exhibitions for the exhibition space (small, but there nevertheless)> Paul is keen on something about rich and poor, inequalities. I'm keen to focus on the dreams and aspirations of our local young people (preferably in Blackball itself) and how they see themselves achieving them. We could do some great interviews and photo essays and give a space to our young adults, a space which I think is really appropriate as we ponder where the left goes in a world where 'left' is a road instruction only.

We talked about other interview possibilities. I am keen to get behind the record button and get the stories of men and women connected with the mines who are just retiring now. I'll find the time somehow, I hope.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

black bean soup

3/4 people ate it. I soaked the beans first which Fallon considers totally necessary for everything except for fresh air. But I think I liked it better when I used the original version of the Nigella Lawson recipe.

I am starting to long for takeaways, for the greasy chips and battered fish with loads of tomato sauce and almost no dishes afterwards.

and no cooking involved.

My clever sister has had some excellent things to say recently. Over on The Hand Mirror, my favourite blog for feminist community from intelligent women who have diverse interests and jobs and who are not scared to call themselves feminists, I like Maia's piece on abortion service inequalities. I did hesitate to mention the 'a' word, knowing the depth of feeling it invokes and understanding (I like to think) why this is so.

But sometimes I have to nail my colours to a mast and say what I think is important. I like to imagine I would never abort a foetus growing inside me, or not one which is the product of my marriage anyway. I like to think that I have enough understanding of inequalities to stick to my guns on the importance of safe, legal abortion being available to all women in New Zealand. Maia's piece mentioned the limited access women have here on the West Coast to abortion services. Recent accounts from women living here make me suspect that indeed Maia is onto something. Something? When a woman in an abusive relationship finds herself pregnant here on the West Coast and wishes to take control of her body, to make decisions around the safety of the children she already has, the difficulties of getting to Christchurch affordably and discreetly are considerable, and she may find herself bringing another child into a violent and uncertain situation. Thank you Maia for sharing your research via the Hand Mirror.

Mind you, the way politics are going at the moment, we may not have any hospital services beyond primary care on the West Coast soon.

Monday, May 10, 2010

peanut sauce

Dinner: chicken, kale, mushrooms, carrots, rice and peanut sauce.

It was my first ever attempt at peanut sauce. I had soaked and then dried the peanuts a la Sally Fallon ages ago, but I didn't dare look at her recipe for peanut sauce tonight, the sun being on the descent and all. I long for chicken with peanut sauce a la the scrumptious dishes I have had in Malaysian places (like the wonderful cheap place in Dunedin when I was student) and Thai places (like the wonderful place out of sight and trendiness in a forgotten mall in Ponsonby when we were childless and rich). The thing about living in this small wet town is that as there are no Thai restaurants and no Malaysian restaurants, it isn't about coveting the riches to eat out for dinner, but about learning to make the food yourself. Christchurch (3.5 hours drive) is too far to drive for a meal out.

Kid test: Fionn yes, Brighid no. She did eat some chicken earlier on.

After dinner I played around with the juicer. I've been doing carrots, ginger, celery, beetroot and apple for a while but tonight I added one large leaf of sorrel, on the basis that it is a bitter green and bitter greens are supposed to be very good for me. It tasted good.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

project day

Sausages and carrots and broccoli and rice for dinner. Same people ate and same people did not. No long soaked rice for Sally Fallon, just food on the table fast. The best bit is that I did not cook it. Ah Mothers Day, where consumerism is somewhere we are not and I got breakfast in bed and dinner cooked for me (and the dishes done). I got the camera out today...
Above is the raised bed which Favourite Handyman made above the graves of our three first loved chooks. We had to pull the lemon tree out of here - it seems that the lemon needs to be in a pot to thrive here. The bare soil to the left of the photo was once sporting a thriving line of carrot seedlings until one night some greedy fattening slug ate them all. Now I have some celery plants in there and hopefully the bokashi liquid I gave them this afternoon will help them thrive. The rest of the bed is queen annes lace, calendula, alyssum and rocket.

Rocket is my favourite treat in the garden. I don't bother offering it to my children much at all, prefering to savour it myself. The stuff is so expensive in the shops and so easy to grow and it tastes perfect picked, rinsed and put straight on sandwiches. I have it on my breakfast as well as lunch.

I planted the six rows of seeds on the perfect pre-full moon time perhaps ten weeks ago, or maybe only six. From nearest to farthest, rocket, alyssum, beetroot, welsh bunching onions, carrots, mesclun lettuce. Germination was erratic, and notably poor for the beetroot, but it is a reminder of how much food I can create even with half an hour of gardening snatched out of the rest of my life.

I sowed the chicory, argentata beet and carrots at the same time. You can see the scattered marigolds still even though it was a week ago that I pulled the plants out.

This is a jungle. Creeping buttercup and borage crowd out other weeds while a few dianthus survive to one side. I pulled the front of this out this morning and dug a bucket of bokashi in and then topped it with pea straw. I need to finish the back part and then I can take and post a photo of the improvements.

I wasn't expecting to like Under the Tuscan Sun much when I started it. But it turns out to be one of those books which makes me want to change my house. The last book was Kingsolver's Lacunae, where the descriptions of Frida Kahlo made me want to put richly coloured pictures on my bedroom wall. Above, Fionn stands in his and his sister's room with it's gloomy wallpaper just as we are starting the big change. If you have no budget for renovating, then tearing down wallpaper and enjoying the creamy remains on the wall is a great idea. Or that's the theory I'm working on once again.

Here it is at the end of the day. I've cleared the wallpaper from three sides and now we can put lots of children's pictures on the walls. The navy and white bits below the curtains are my extensions to keep out the cold. One day when we magically have a decorating budget, I shall put a pelmet to the ceiling above the curtain and run new curtains down to the floor.
Off to my Blackball writing file...

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Needs & nourishment

Herbs to soothe, nourish and satisfy. When we moved here 3.5 years ago, the strip of so-called garden alongside the path the back door was filled with gravel in an ugly attempt at a no-maintenance exterior. Not long afterwards, I found that my baby daughter was lying across me, not a good move for a woman who not only didn't want a caesarian, but wanted a home birth. I did a pile of exercises and got her to turn breech. Next stop, to turn her head down. Every day I would part fill a bucket with stones from this strip on my hands and knees. Brighid turned, we got our home birth and the previously neglected strip of stones was planted with broccoli, then garlic and later herbs.

When life is so busy I barely get to look at my garden and weeds grow rampant and unchecked, my herb garden, with its minimal care requirements and all season greenness (temperate enough here that the herbs mostly don't die off completely), brings me great happiness.
Above is the rosemary and the lemon thyme, with new arrival, echinacea, in the centre.

Marjoram and sage. I plan to fry sage in butter a lot this winter.

Flat leaved parsley. I am now onto generation three of self seeded parsley. Sometimes I pot up the little seedlings and give as gifts.
Today was wonderful. We stayed home all day. I made Brighid a new skirt. It isn't about to win an A & P show prize, but her capacity for going through multiple skirts and trousers each day called for more items. Earlier in the week I checked at Postie Plus and shuddered at the thought of paying over $20 for a pair of trousers for a girl who will need to change them before lunchtime. I could pretend that the ethics of buying cheap Chinese sweat shop labour-produced items drove me to the sewing machine, but really, I was more skinflint than ethical. Below, Brighid models her new skirt. Perhaps she is also modelling her haircut. Like it? She did it herself...

Today at lunchtime we had reheated bacon hock soup and sourdough rye and caraway bread. The soup was solid gel when I took it out of the fridge, so lots of good minerals and chondroitin there. Oldest three people ate it; the girl may have eaten the toast.
Dinner: into the oven at 150 celsius: one chopped up small pumpkin kindly gifted to us by a local gardening friend, one chopped onion, some chopped garlic cloves, two sprigs of rosemary, some chopped up anchovies, two tins of chopped tomatoes. All went onto a greased oven dish and cooked for 80 minutes. Cooked some macaroni pasta and then mixed the two and topped it with parmesan cheese, chopped parsley and basil, black pepper and chopped olives.
Frankly, it tasted too much like babyfood. Brighid didn't eat much, though she had gobbled cheese and olives while I was cooking. Fionn told me it was "yum". Price and Fallon probably diapproved of the tinned tomatoes and the pasta and I can't remember what they have to say about olives. If I were to muck around with something similar again, perhaps I would try shakshuka instead.
Usually I avoid gratuitous pictures of my children (I like to look at those of other people's children on their blogs, but by the time I am blogging at night, prefer to forget my own children, though they frequently have other ideas), but I am rather taken with this recent one (below), and include it to demonstrate what we observe so often with children who appear not to eat: they look the picture of health and are clearly getting enough sustenance somehow.

I've been plagued with disquiet over my fragmented life lately. It's not that it is going badly at all. But I seem to be busy all the time and have nothing tangible to show for it. Often as I work (consider that paid and unpaid, with an emphasis on the unpaid stuff), I add up what I have done that day. So many little bits. Today as I sewed Brighid's skirt, it was nice, but still not the thing I need.
ah yes. the need word. Heard often around here. Sometimes I want to ban it. Turns out I want a turn.
I need to write properly. Not as in suddenly I will become J K Rowling or Maurice Gee but because I suspect it is what I need to do to make sense of my life. I'm not a poet, but I am inspired by the energy and particularly the Tuesday poem series in blogs like Janis Freegard's. I still admire and think about Freegard's short story "Mill", which you can read here.
Right now I am going to bed to read Under the Tuscan Sun or whatever Frances Mayes' memoir of redoing an ancient house in Tuscany is called. I found it at a garage sale. Where other people think they will start their diet tomorrow, I am more thinking I am too tired to write and will delay it until the next day.
How serious am I?
Not hard to be more serious than I ever have been about that ridiculous pastime beloved of so many people, dieting. Properly then, off to make notes for my proper story about May Day in Blackball. No it won't be online for a while yet.

Friday, May 7, 2010

beef steak

A couple of months ago, our coffee group friend Ruth had a beast killed from their small farmlet. Just as she was about to leave for Christchurch, baby in the car and three year old all set to go, the butcher turned up with 14 banana boxes of meat, only a portion of which would fit in her freezer. So she had a problem and never has it been easier to help her solve it. Another coffee group friend (you know, the kind you set up when you have small babies and then you help each other through very little sleep and lots of parenting challenges for years afterwards -very wonderful) acted as a distribution point and we all got some wonderful meat. Apparently the meat was a bit tough, according to the butcher, so tonight I turned the sirloin steak into a casserole.

Some steak
some portabello mushrooms
one onion, chopped.
some garlic, chopped.
bay leaves and thyme
big squirt of tomato paste
slosh of red wine
slosh of say sauce
some water

cook 160 censius for 90 minutes. Run round town doing errands like spending almost $300 on glasses for Fionn. Devoted parenthood not cheap.
come home for ten minutes as husband still at pub with fresh pint in front of him, feed chooks, light fire, cut fruit for children, cut and wash and chop silverbeet and put in casserole and turn down to 150. Go back to pub, husband ready, back home.
Realise there are no coloured veges and no starch. Find soba noodles in back of cupboard which cook fast. Chop a large carrot up to serve raw. All on the table with hardly a raised voice, not necessarily the norm.

Kid test: Fionn loved the soba noodles and the sauce. Puddled with the actual meat. Brighid ate the carrots and played with the noodles and declared the sauce yucky.

Price/Fallon test: Good I think. Garlic, herbs, onion all with merits and she likes meat as well. Fallon cooks most things for so many hours I wonder if it is a competition. Ninety minutes was enough for tonight.

The wine was a timing boon. At school pickup I forgot about our friend J who comes to our place on Fridays. Luckily he found us before I drove off home altogether. Most undeservingly, his Dad gave me a bottle of red wine just as I was about to put the alcohol-free casserole in the oven. So it got the slosh just in time.

I thought the mushrooms tasted fantastic. I'm tempted to make another casserole with mushrooms and similar sauce but without the meat.

Today I made caraway rye bread which is a good sign of some settledness returning to our mad household. I call it the home made bread index. It takes very little hands-on time the way I make it, but requires a certain calmness to remember to add the ingredients and cook it across 2-3 days.

Apparently it is mothers' day on Sunday. I have said that I would like Favourite Handyman and Fionn to do all the cooking that day. Fionn is keen to make me breakfast in bed. He was also keen to go out for bought breakfast like last year, but Mrs Budgeter put the kybosh on that one.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

In the soup

Two bacon hocks, a few handfuls of green lentils, garlic, leeks, carrots, bay leaves, thyme and sage. Fill the crock pot with all this and then add water to the top and cook on low all day. Serve with toast.

Kid test: Fionn ate it all and said "Thank you Mum, I like this soup." I love him. Brighid ate the toast and a bowl of tayberries from the freezer and resolutely refused to even look at the soup. I love her too, but not really her eating habits tonight.

Price/Fallon test: soups are good. Long soups with bones in them very good. All the veges and herbs good too. Toast not good but I'm unrepentant. I'm unsure of late about bacon hocks because of nitrates (or nitrites?). They do give great flavour to a soup though.

I bought punnets of kohlrabi and purple sprouting broccoli from the garden shop today. Oh the promise of a garden shop purchase...

My daughter is galloping through a million outfits per day at the moment. I might have to get the sewing machine out. Any links to girl's skirt or dress/pinafore patterns very welcome in the comments section. She is three. I think I could get the sewing machine out this weekend, especially if short people would go to sleep promptly in the evenings.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Fish rolled in flour, paprika and lemon & pepper (that dried mix you buy from the herb shelves in the supermarket). Then cooked in olive oil. Mashed potato. sliced raw carrot and cucumber.

kid test: they ate the carrot and cucumber. Fionn ate everything, but slower than usual. The terakihi wasn't as suited to the coat-and-fry method as the turbot we had been getting but which was out of stock today. Could I muck around with a bearnaise sauce like they do in restaurants for terakihi? Likely not.

Fallon/Price test: I don't much care today but I'm sticking to the food blogging commitment. Fish good but white flour and lemon pepper mix probably not. Mashed potato surely okay and raw veges. Fallon likes cooking veges for ages and then meat raw which feels not only weird and possibly dodgy, but also takes too damn long.

I haven't worked on my writing at all. Bad. I did take Brighid to Laksmi the wonder worker today and learnt things about pituitary glands and valves for pooing and realised also how little I know compared to how much I want to know. I'm not even sure of the name of the type of healing she used today. The energy work and reflexology and pressure points stuff I broadly recognise, but there was more. Very interesting.

When my writing is indeed properly crafted, I think it is going to recreate aspects of the May Day opening of the Blackball 08 memorial. Somehow I must stick to this one.

Sick of thinking about what to cook for tea, I have dealt with tomorrow tonight so I don't have to think about it tomorrow. Bacon hocks with french lentils and vegetables and herbs in water to make soup all day in the slow cooker. It's in the fridge now but that doesn't guarantee that I will remember to get it out and turn the slow cooker on tomorrow.

Yesterday I planted a red hot poker. It is a divided root from my cousin Mary's large plant. I just want to record that I got out into the garden during the week. For my own sanity.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

burnt potatoes and Monteiths Black

Tried my own version of the classic dish with sliced spuds baked with cream. It would have been a good idea to follow a printed recipe. I sliced up potatoes and parsnips and layered them with chopped onion, garlic and anchovies in the middle, poured over the last 50ml of cream left in the fridge and topped it with cheese.

I put it in the oven at 150 celsius, intending it to cook for two hours. Only it was looking a shade overdone after only one, so I left it in there for another hour on 100 until we were home again and ready to eat dinner. I didn't put enough cream in and should have used a smaller dish and put the lid on. Then it would have been really good - I've had success with this kind of thing before, perhaps crucially when I have followed a specific recipe.

Fallon/Price test: cream good, as it provides fat for the fat soluble vitamins to be absorbed into our bodies. Anchovies good for omega 3. Garlic and onions good for quercetin. I think parsnips and spuds good as well.

Kid test: not great. Fionn pushed his food around his plate and declared himself not hungry. Both required some explicit threats to get even part of it down their throats.

I got some Monteiths Black at writers' group meeting, which we hold in a local pub. I had my daughter with me while Favourite Handyman and Fionn went to Martial Arts. It took me back to those long off days when Fionn and I wandered round London at any time we (I?) felt like, unencumbered by school or other timetables. My writing was rushed and not so much crap as insufficiently developed, an issue every month. I really need to write properly more than 60 minutes per month. So I received some suggestions for developing the writing I did for tonight - on May Day at Blackball - and I need to do something about it and actually craft something for improvement.

Monday, May 3, 2010

let them eat sausage

Dinner: sausage casserole.
As you do, when it is cold and wet and yucky outside and the children are known as keen sausage eaters.
Oven to 180 celsius.
Grease a large casserole with butter.
8 sausages, pricked, in the bottom.
Peel and chop 2 kumara and add.
wash and slice 1 leek, add.
add some wakame (dried japanese sea vegetable which is very healthy last time I counted)
wash and chop 4 stalks of kale and add. (leave the snails in the rinsing water)
tip a tin of crushed pineapple on top, as well as some balsamic vinegar, soy sauce and tomato sauce.

Stir it and put in oven, lid on, for about an hour. It's ready when the sausages are cooked through.

the price/fallon lens: I don't know that they like sausages but I also don't know when they last fed young children on a budget. Frankly, sausages rock this world. 'Tis meat though and they seem to like that. Vegetables all good, especially the kale and wakame. Not sure about the pineapple, but it was in its own juice and maybe it had some bromelain in it, a truly excellent digestive enzyme. No highly processed grain products, but I did crave and eat a piece of toast after tea.

the kid test: yes they ate it. without complaining. I wasn't sure about the flavours together but Favourite Handyman reckoned it was good and then I decided that actually I was being a clever fusion cook (as distinguishable ever so slightly from grumpy mother pulling whatever dodgy things can be found in the cupboard together into one unfortunate and yet forgiving dish).

Now I have to write something for writers' group tomorrow night and also work out how we can all be in the right place for bed time, martial arts and writers group with one car and a lot of rain. I'm thinking of writing about political disengagement in my little world. Maybe I will cross-post later.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

May Day, Anzac Day, garden day

It's been an eventful, crammed two weeks. I shut the car door on my son's finger last Wednesday evening. It hurt him like hell and cut me to the core. I've been rather cavalier about minor injuries for the most part, but to cause pain like this made me realise how utterly central my children's safety is to my own job description - the one I wrote unconsciously a long while back. So that was Wednesday evening, the entirety of it, at Accident & Emergency. Thank goodness we still have a local hospital.

The next day, trying to find a park at the hospital in order to take Fionn for an x-ray, I crashed into another car. Entirely my fault. No one hurt in the slightest, though my bank balance is going to hurt a lot by the time I've paid the insurance excess for the other car and sorted out our own (we only have third party on our car).

The weekend before, we spent some time getting the 08 memorial ready at Blackball, the museum of working class history which has been so long planned and is now reality. We also went to the Dawn Service on Anzac Day, and Fionn and I went to the cemetery service later that morning. With my Dad's cousin Mary, we visited the graves of her husband and his brothers. Lou and Doug served in World War Two and Lou spent much of his time in a Prisoner of War camp.

On Thursday night Gaylene Preston's movie Home by Christmas premiered in Greymouth, with Ms Preston herself there and many people dressed up for the occasion. I loved the movie though I keenly missed the fact that the film, though set in Greymouth, was shot on location in Wellington. How I would love to see our world on the big screen.

Saturday was May Day. We went up to Blackball and enjoyed the forum, the march and the opening of the 08 memorial/working class history museum. This year's forum was on the establishing of a progressive voice on the West Coast. By the time I got to the forum, I was exhausted and I felt something of a fraud as I knew I was in no position to offer my skills and time to a new project. I saw some familiar faces from last year and loved that there were some new children. Last year we had our daughter (then two) with us and this year there was a tiny baby, a toddler and a very pregnant woman contributing to the forum. It gives a powerful sense of hope and continuity.

The opening itself was marvellous. Jose Garcia, the Cuban ambasador to New Zealand, spoke and I really enjoyed what he had to say. Damien O'Connor, previously Labour MP for the West Coast and now list MP, impressed many people with his speech. Perhaps losing his seat has sharpened his focus.

Neither of us went back for the evening, interesting though it promised to be. Exhaustion from the week took its toll.

Today was birthday day. Firstly we farewelled our cousins Bruce and Sharon and Mary. Mary is my Dad's first cousin and a special person in our lives. Her son Bruce and his wife Sharon visit from the US every two years and we enjoy their company greatly. As they work diligently to meet Mary's needs and plan for her possible needs for the coming years, it is an emotionally intense time for me as I contemplate the cycle of needs over a person's life.

Then we tootled off to a seventh birthday party. I had made a bag for Ella and put some craft items in it. Earlier plans to make her a dress had to be shelved as the reality clock struck. We all had a nice time but the best part of the day was when we got home, having picked up Favourite Handyman from work, and I got to garden.

Yes, GARDEN! I have not done that for too long. When I was initially hooked on Linda Woodrow's Permaculture Home Garden book, I imbibed her sermons on the drawbacks of shop-bought seedlings, how they were root bound and all round inferior. But trial and error showed me that shop seedlings were better than shop-bought vegetables and that as I took on more paid work, I had to grab the gardening bits in whatever shape I could manage.

Today I planted some seedlings which have been in little pots for many weeks, left for almost dead until recent rain and now in the ground ready to have a go at life in the big soil. Five kale seedlings and three celery seedlings are now in the ground. I also transplanted three self-sown seedlings of flat-leaved parsley and weeded heaps of weeds, borage and dying marigolds out of the way. I harvested leeks and rhubarb.

My other project, starting tonight, is to note here what we ate for tea each night and how it measures up to the Weston Price/Sally Falloon school of nutritional thought. Don't expect it to look saintly! Tonight we ate pasta. Here is an attempt at turning it into something as facy as a recipe:
1 leek (from the garden)
3 cloves garlic (from the garden!)
1 stick of celery (from the garden)
2 carrots
handful herbs (I used marjoram and thyme, from the garden)

Saute all this (chopped) in a mixture of olive oil and butter. Then add some red wine and put the lid on the frypan. After a while add a can of chopped tomatoes, stir and keep on stirring when you can as you mind crazy children. Boil some small pasta. Since we discovered tiny pasta shapes (macroni or little shells), pasta has gotten a lot more pleasant. Add a can of tuna to the sauce when everything seems nearly ready. Then add the pasta. Remember that there are no greens and grab some rocket from the garden, tear it up and mix in.

Chop up some black olives and some stuffed green olives. Grate some parmesan cheese. Turn heat off the frypan. Mix in some cheese and the olives. Dish onto plates and take the remaining cheese to the table to add onto individual plates.

Rejoice if your children eat it. Mine did. More satisfying than meeting anyone else's food guidelines. The Price/Fallon reckoning? Pasta is a refined grain and thus out of fashion for these guys. I'll eat it a couple of times a week just for the satisfaction of seeing my children finish their plates up. I cooked in olive oil and butter as I have definitely taken on their concerns about canola and soy oils in particular. I gunned for lots of vegetables - what civilised diet does not? The butter should help make the minerals and vitamins in the veges easily absorbed. The tuna is the last tin with soy oil in it. I wasn't organised enough to be fussy tonight, but shopping-wise I have shifted to salmon for tinned fish supplies as it has no soy or canola oil in it. I think the cheese and olives are okay.

Perhaps this project will get me to blog more frequently again. If you are interested in the Price/Fallon school of food thought, then a google search will turn up lots. The Nourished Kitchen blog in my sidebar is not a bad place to start either.